Rebecca L. Davis is the Miller Family Early Career Professor of History at the University of Delaware, with a joint appointment in the Department of Women and Gender Studies. She is the author of More Perfect Unions: The American Search for Marital Bliss (2010), a history of how marriage counseling shaped twentieth-century American religion, social science, and gender politics. Her latest book, Public Confessions: The Religious Conversions that Changed American Politics, will be published Fall 2021 by UNC Press. She is also the co-editor of Heterosexual Histories (with Michele Mitchell). Her current book project is Sex in America (Liveright). Davis serves as a producer and the story editor for the Sexing History podcast. A former postdoctoral fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University, she was a visiting fellow there during the 2016–2017 academic year.
When Muhammad Ali announced that he had joined the Nation of Islam in 1964, his father told reporters that his son had been "brainwashed" by Elijah Muhammad. This idea--that the physically powerful boxer had a weak mind--persisted throughout his career, often cited to discredit his activism against the war in Vietnam and to mock his chosen religion. But it also resonates in today's debates over the presence of African Americans (especially Black men) in national conversations about faith, power, and authentic self-definition.